Generally speaking, across the United States, it is almost universal that Courts will order the “path of least resistance” albeit the least effective intervention when it comes to cases involving Parental Alienation.
That is, the usual treatment is to a local therapist who may have an excellent reputation as a mental health provider, but may, in fact, not be very knowledgeable about Parental Alienation. Not only are Courts prone to this solution, but attorneys representing their clients sometimes encourage their clients to enroll in a therapeutic treatment for a variety of reasons. First, it might demonstrate how committed their client is in resolving the family conflict. Second, sometimes enrolling in therapy may enlist the therapist as an advocate for the client who could be called on to testify. Thirdly, of course, it is possible that a mental health need is identified and the client and his or her children might benefit for such treatments.
The culprit in virtually automatically referring Parental Alienation cases is the lack of education regarding what this complex phenomenon is.
It has been repeatedly documented that individual, generic family, behavioral, cognitive therapy not only does not work, it makes the child’s situation worse. The risks of ordinary therapy to alienated children not only includes increasing psychological harm but may now include medical/health ramifications in the form of consequences from what is referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
More and more professionals are recognizing Parental Alienation as a form of child abuse. It is a deceptive, counter-intuitive, form of abuse that continuously erodes children’s relationships from their parents. A previously, loving, attached child morphs into an adversary from the very people who brought them into this world and for reasons that are unjustified.
The consequences of Parental Alienation can be lifelong and extremely damaging.
Traditional therapy commonly will force a child, sometimes unwittingly, to choose one parent over another. The results of such an approach can be devastating to the child, not to mention the rejected parent.
It is long overdue that professionals working with high conflict families and Parental Alienation become aware that the default referral does not work and that there is a robust literature that they need to become more familiar with.
Many professionals know a little about Parental Alienation. It is not uncommon to learn that the extent of an evaluator’s, therapist’s, GaL’s or attorney’s source of Parental Alienation knowledge is a single article.
Attorneys, judges, and forensic mental health professions need to become familiar with the day-to-day reality alienated children have to deal with as well as the unjustified rejected parent.
Ordering participation in traditional therapy in lieu of more intense, focused interventions that are known to be effective is no longer an option. To do so is to leave children in harmful, abusive settings when effective solutions are readily available.
Working with family law cases that include Parental Alienation requires specialized knowledge and skills, along with a different approach. The recognized effective programs are more psycho-educational than they are therapeutic. Parental Alienation is still not well understood and is frequently met with controversial misinformation.
It is time for professionals working in legal settings to get more informed about what Parental Alienation is, how does one identify it in cases, and what has to be done to reunite alienated children with rejected parents. Our goal is to help correct this situation.